We recently attended a continuing legal education program about the issues facing undocumented children coming into the United States and what immigration attorneys should know about the laws around that issue. It was hosted by three attorneys from a boutique firm that many of the attorneys hadn’t heard of before, but by the end, audience members were getting business cards from them and asking follow-up questions.
The message was clear. The benefit of attending a prescribed number of hours of continuing legal education each year is self-evident, but have you ever considered the value of presenting at CLEs?
Putting on a CLE program about a topic that you can speak about with some authority is not only a great way to promote your firm, but also to establish yourself with credibility in subject matter areas related to your practice.
Work With the Bar
If you’ve never done it before, there is a process to it. Your state bar association probably also have detailed requirements about how and where your course can be presented, and whether your topic will drum up enough interest to make it worthwhile. It will also probably have to be presented by an entity that has a demonstrated history sponsoring, organizing and administering CLEs.
You will also be required to provide quality written materials to accompany your presentation. As you probably know, these materials are often presented in outline form, and are sometimes a printed version of the visual component (such as a PowerPoint file) of your presentation. Sometimes a digital version of your materials can be provided to lawyers who attend your CLE via live or replayed video.
Pick Your Approach
As for those materials, you’ll have some decisions to make. Should you take a broad approach, or zero in on a handful of issues? Also, do remember that you’re putting on a presentation. Don’t be afraid to deviate a little from your materials with an anecdote or case study that might be relevant. Whatever you do, don’t just read directly from your hand-out materials.
Think about when you want to answer questions. Some lawyers advise against having this period at the end, since by then people will be ready to leave. Instead, encourage attendees to interrupt you if they have a query.
And try not to succumb to stage fright: Remember, the people are there to hear you because you know what you’re talking about. Let that confidence show through.